Rick Aldine, North Coast Grape Manager

Summer salutations everybody!  We’re a month into summer and just a couple weeks away from the onset of Veraison.  I feel that it’s been a relatively mild summer with longer periods of lingering fog and temperatures in the mid 80’s.  No crazy heat yet and it still appears that the vintage is 10-14 days late.  If the season continues its mild behavior, we could definitely be looking at a weather-affected harvest.  The crop potential seems to be increasing slightly.  Set was very good in most locations and clusters appear well-filled across most varietals.  I’m now guessing a 2018 yield potential 5% above 2017’s.  There are also more acres coming into production, especially in the Central Coast.  We agree that the 2018 statewide crop will be larger than 2017.  Weather during 2018 bloom was good which could set up a large cropping potential for 2019.  North Coast hand labor continues to be scarce and expensive and Growers are faced with having to use contract labor from the Central Valley to accomplish tasks.  The quality of this field work is not as good as we have come to expect.  Canopy management, leafing and crop thinning tasks are trending late.  This could push the harvest further toward October and weather risks.  It’s mildew season and though spotty, we’re seeing it in the usual places.  We saw our first color last week in the usual early areas of Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah.  We’re expecting to see some soft Chardonnay berries this week.

The grape buying market remains sluggish.  The big buyers continue to wait as prices soften somewhat.  This is affording the small, high-end buyers opportunities to pick off some nice grapes at more reasonable pricing than we have seen in recent years.  Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc remain the highest demand varietals, especially Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Napa AvA fruit.  Napa red blender demand is strong since most of the varietals’ prices are at least 25-40% less than Cab Sauv.  Napa and Sonoma Cab Sauv and Pinot Noir both seem reasonably available and pricing is becoming more negotiable.  We have excellent quality Cab Sauv grapes in Napa (Calistoga, Chiles Vly, Pope Vly) and Sonoma (Alexander Vly) and smaller Pinot Noir grape lots from Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Potter Valley.

The bulk market for Reds is somewhat slow but nevertheless moving and there are exceptional deals as we approach harvest, especially for Napa Cabernet.  The pre-fire 2017 vintage was fantastic and there are some amazing wines available at attractive prices.  Bulk wine is such a great strategic hedge as part of your sourcing and cost control.  Producers should consider custom bulk wine contracts with Agajanian to help blend down the increasing high cost of grapes.

Buyers, we have grape purchase opportunities in all 5 North Coast counties that can also be structured as custom wine contracts.  Sluggish markets are the best time to secure optimum long-term grape contract pricing… we have terrific Cab Sauv and Cab Franc planting contract opportunities in Napa County.  Give me a call to get out and look at 2018 grape opportunities  OR  come by our Napa office to taste through our bulk wine offerings.  You can reach me at (707) 252-4800 office, (707) 287-6073 cell, rick@agajanian.com.  Our Napa office is located across from The Meritage Resort, 2785 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, Napa.

Dan Garcia, Northern Interior Grape Manager

Everything appears to be moving along in the Interior. No major issues. Mildew has not been a problem, which is great after last year’s fiasco. I am however having a difficult time grasping where this year went. Growers and wineries are gearing up for harvest and you can just feel it getting busier.

I think crop size in the Interior will be pretty close to normal. Some of the white varieties, like Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, look to be a little on the light side but Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio appear to be more normal. The Reds seem to be more normal, especially Cabernet Sauvignon which appears to be normal plus. Merlot and Petite Sirah are right up there with Pinot Noir slightly lower. Temperatures have finally heated up but we still feel harvest could be 10 days off from last year in the Interior.

I still have some nice blocks of fruit available in the Interior Region if you feel your estimates might be lower than your needs. If so, give me a call on my cell at (916) 425-6656 or I can also be reached at dan@agajanian.com. If it is bulk wine you’re looking for, I can also help you with that as well. Agajanian has positioned itself with some great wines from regions all over the state. Our Winemaker, Harry Parducci, continues to make some really nice wines. Let me know if you would like any information, samples, etc. Most of all, I want to finish by saying I hope all of you have a safe and prosperous 2018 harvest.

Michael Haddox, Central Coast Grape Manager

Hello from the Central Coast! Another harvest is closely approaching and the thing that sticks out in my mind is how great the vineyards look again this year. The overall quality across the coastal regions has been amazing and with solid yields it looks to be another win. Canopies have developed nicely, mildew has been near nonexistent, pest pressure has been minimal and set seems to have been great with some areas showing a little shatter.

For the first time in quite some time I actually feel ready for harvest and can’t wait to get my first picks going. There are lots of gems out there still looking for a home, so call me direct at (805) 975-7001 or email me at michael@agajanian.com if you have a particular need. We have a few larger lots of grapes that have been marked down to move so if you’re looking for some Petite Sirah, Syrah, or Cabernet deals give me a call to discuss the details. I have also grafted some new Sauv Blanc and Grenache that will produce next year so give me a call for the details.

As I have mentioned in all of my previous posts from this year, it is a buyers’ market and the opportunities are big so take advantage of it. Thanks for considering Agajanian for your grape and bulk needs, we appreciate you and look forward to helping your business grow and prosper!

Tim Mendonca, Central & Southern Interior Grower Relations

We have been seeing those 100 degree days more often and I think they are here to stay. We have currently had over a week of consecutive 100+ degree days and it looks like that total will be growing. Please remember to drink water, wear a hat, and apply sunscreen every couple of hours if you are going to be out in the vineyard for any prolonged period of time. As the saying goes, “Don’t wait, hydrate.” We are starting to see some color start appearing on red varieties, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Rubired. The early whites are starting to soften and are beginning to go through verasion. We are going to start to get some baseline brix numbers this week so you will be seeing a lot more of your friendly Agajanian field staff out in your vineyards.

We are still seeing slow market activity. There has been some interest in Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat varieties, and a little of Pinot Grigio but nothing to get excited about. There is a nice crop out there but it looks like everyone is waiting to see how it starts to harvest before they start to buy. We have some great opportunities on Barbera and Orange Muscat so give me a call and we can go out and see them.
If you have any grapes or bulk wine for sale or are interested in any grapes and bulk wine feel free to give me a call at (559) 352-2452 or email: Tim@agajanian.com

Patrick Tachella, Director of Viticulture

Exciting things are happening in the vineyards across the Golden State. Most notably we have wide spread vèraison in the Fresno/ Madera area. Through most of the other regions whites have just started softening and the reds are coming along nicely as well.

As others will tell you, we are looking about 5-10 days delayed from last year’s harvest dates. To me, that’s a good thing. I think the bigger wineries will actually be ready to receive the first loads when the fruit is perfectly ready, not just when the winery is ready. I am seeing fairly good differentiation in maturity between regions. I hope this will keep fruit moving smoothly through wineries instead of us getting a “tanks are all full” response as we try to schedule picks for optimum quality.

Speaking of quality, the outlook for this vintage is looking GREAT! The minimal powdery mildew development has been a blessing in reflection of last year’s mess. Most growers have had minimal pest pressures and plenty of water to ripen the crop. In the Northern interior and warmer parts of the North Coast we have noticed particularly tight bunches. This makes me a bit uneasy as we go through this heat
spell. I hope that growers are being cautious not to over irrigate and cause berry splitting or push off that will turn into bunch rot later on but thus far rot has been minimal.

We get lots of questions this time of year surrounding the idea of “When is it okay to stop mildew sprays?” In general, we suggest growers maintain mildew protection until 75% of the clusters are soft. This usually corresponds to when the berries reach about 8-10brix of sugar. Right around that point, the berries are no longer susceptible to new mildew infections developing. Please note that existing infections can continue to sporulate until berries reach almost 15 brix. As always, I strongly encourage you to heed the recommendations of your PCA or CCA when making pest management decisions.

I’ll finish by saying that we will be taking a month off of writing as we move into the busy season. You will hear from us again in our September newsletter. Until then I hope you have a safe, and successful start to your harvest season. If you have unsold fruit, or are in need of fruit, our Grower Relations reps are here to help you – they are just a phone call, text or email away.

If you cannot take grapes, we can custom crush and make wine to your style specifications. Please call your Grower Representative listed below, or our Premium Bulk Wine Sales Manager Jennifer Hibbard at our North Coast office (707) 252-4800. For Private Label, call Shelly van Rijn at (707) 252-4800.

Rick Aldine-North Coast Winegrape Manager (707) 287-6073
Dan Garcia-Northern Interior Winegrape Manager (916) 425-6656
Michael Haddox-Central Coast Winegrape Manager (805) 975-7001
Tim Mendonca-Central and Southern Interior Grower Relations (559) 352-2452
Patrick Tachella-Director of Viticulture (559) 840-5792